Wayne Rooney, a prolific goalscorer in Manchester derbies, is back after suspension and fit for tomorrow’s Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Rumours that Rooney could miss the match had begun to circulate after media reports said he limped away from training on Monday with a foot injury. But Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said yesterday that Rooney would feature, but fellow striker Radamel Falcao would not be available.
“Falcao is still injured,” he said. “Rooney shall play, he is my captain.”
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After scoring late equalisers in their past two games, against West Brom and Chelsea, United believe they go into tomorrow’s game in better heart than rivals City, who recently surrendered a 2-0 half-time lead in drawing with CSKA Moscow, then lost to West Ham United in the league and Newcastle United in the Capital One Cup.
“What we have seen of City in the last few matches was not so good,” said Van Gaal, who believes his team can win his first Manchester derby.
“That is our goal, to win. It is possible, we are growing. This is the biggest derby that I shall manage. It is one of 38 (league) matches we have to play, but for the fans it is unbelievably big as a rivalry and I have felt that also with a lot of the players in the squad, but also especially with (assistant manager) Ryan Giggs.
“When he presented the analysis on City, I felt more tension with him. It was good to see. I have to analyse and prepare for all games in the same manner, but for the players and the fans it is different.”
Rooney, who has 11 derby goals to his name in 22 games, has missed United’s past three matches through suspension after being sent off against West Ham on 27 September. The late point earned by Robin van Persie’s last-minute equaliser at home to Chelsea on Sunday took them into eighth place but a win would move them only one point behind their neighbours, who are currently third.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini has challenged his team to step up and fill the void created by David Silva’s absence in the derby after the Spaniard suffered a knee injury in midweek.
Silva has been ruled out for around three weeks after limping out of the action early in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup loss to Newcastle. The injury has come at a bad time with Silva having been one of City’s more impressive performers during an indifferent spell.
Pellegrini said: “David has a problem in his ligament. Maybe he will be out around three weeks, so he will not be available for the derby.
“He is a very important player but I always say the same thing, we have a squad and we have to replace him with another player.
“I think we are a team, and in that team we need top players in top performance always, because that is the best way to play.”
Silva’s absence could mean a sooner-than-anticipated start for Samir Nasri in his comeback from groin surgery.
The Frenchman, who had missed the previous seven games, was pressed into action against Newcastle after just nine minutes because of Silva’s problem, but Pellegrini wanted to ease him back and withdrew him after 70.
City could find themselves nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea before their game against United kicks off. With the Londoners looking so strong, there is a feeling City, who also lost to West Ham last weekend, can ill afford to drop too many more points. But Pellegrini, who won his first two Manchester derbies 4-1 and 3-0 last season, is well aware of the importance of this weekend’s fixture to supporters. But he has tried to distance himself from the emotion surrounding the occasion to depict it as just a normal game.
He said: “I expect that we are going to have a tough game against a very good team with very good players. It is a very important game but every game has just three points. It is very important for us just to add three points more for the season. I don’t think it is the biggest game – all the games are biggest games. All the games are exactly the same, the biggest games and the smallest games.
“But for supporters it is a special game and we know exactly what they feel about winning or losing against Manchester United.”
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